16th century maps to sell at Bonhams

Map collectors with an interest in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly will be offered the first collection of maps focussed on Scilly, dating from the 16th and 17th centuries, ever to come to auction.

The 40 items in this group include the earliest map by Waghenaer, printed in Leiden in 1586 which is estimated to sell for £800-1,200 in the Bonhams sale at Oxford on 1 December 1.

The most expensive of the group is the highly-decorative map of Romeyn de Hooge, 1693 at £900-1,200.

And the most-admired by map collectors is the scarce printed in Florence by Sir Robert Dudley, who made the disputed claim that he was the Duke of Northumberland. This map is estimated to sell for £1,000-1,500.

These maps show Cornwall with Scilly positioned beyond Land's End. Others depict the islands alone, of which the earliest is the hand-coloured chart by Greenville Collins, printed in 1693 and which is estimated to sell for between £300-500.

Many of these early maps were destined for the libraries of wealthy men

In April this year Bonhams sold an exceptional collection of 184 lots, assembled by the Enys family of Enys near Falmouth, which covered the history of Cornwall. The collection encompassed works of poetry, fiction, news items, crime reports, maps and photograph and was estimated to fetch £50,000 but in fact made £80,000.

"It is happy coincidence that in a season when Bonhams has been able to offer one of the best collection of books on Cornwall of recent years, we also now have this remarkable collection - Scillonian, but undeniably Cornish as well," said David Park Head of Books Maps and Manuscripts Department at Bonhams.

Many of these early maps were destined for the libraries of wealthy men. Few made it to sea in the hands of mariners, most of those that did have not survived because of the wear and tear they were subjected to. 

As they are today, early maps were seen as decorative items quite as much as anything else, and only with time became seen as objects of utility for actual use by seamen.


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